1910: Marlow in Thames Villages by Charles Harper.
1227: It is said that there was a bridge at Marlow
1309: The Knights Templar of Bisham owned a bridge. Letters patent issued to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, for the repair of your bridge which is decayed and broken. For four years he could take a penny toll of all vessels passing under the bridge laden with goods of value exceeding 40s.
1353: a 3d. toll
1399: Repairs to be overseen by the Prior of Bustleham [Bisham?].
1530: Leland "a bridge of Timbre"
1610: Camden -
... where the Tamis glideth at the foote of those hilles with a winding course, standeth Marlow, a prety town of no meane credite, taking name of the said chalke commonly termed Marle, which being spred upon corne ground eaten out of heart with long tillage doth quicken the same againe, so as that after one yeeres rest it never lieth fallow, but yeeldeth againe unto the husband man his seed in plentifully measure.
1642: Bridge partly destroyed by Major General Brown of the Parliamentary Army.
Brave doings at Marlow (Elections), where a stout bargeman duckt Sir Henry Wynch so under water that all cried to save him.
Marlow Bridge (said to be the pre 1789 bridge) engraved by J. Greig from a drawing by T. Powell -
Marlow Bridge engraved by J. Greig from a drawing by T. Powell
1786: Old bridge causing concern
1788: A new bridge to be built by public subscription
1789: A new Bridge opened. It was of timber. The bargemasters said of the old bridge the present navigable arch by being too low greatly impedes navigation. So the Commissioners subscribed £50 towards adding 18" to the height! Fred Thacker suspected that this was really a rebuild using the same materials.
1792: Old Marlow Bridge in Picturesque Views of the Thames by Samuel Ireland -
... the town of Marlow, considered as a picturesque object, receives much addition from the New Bridge, which is of wood, and has been recently finished at an expence of about eighteen hundred pounds. It has a remarkable ascent, and forms the best object as a wooden bridge, that I remember to have seen. The ballustrades are painted white, in imitation of stone-work ; and the whole scenery contiguous is pleasingly variegated by the rich verdure of the adjacent woods.
Marlow Bridge, Samuel Ireland, 1792
That is the old church, demolished in 1832
1797: Marlow Bridge engraved by J Walker -
1797: Marlow Bridge engraved by J Walker
1811: Marlow Bridge -
Marlow Bridge and Church, 1811
1814: Marlow Bridge -
Marlow Bridge and Church, 1814
1828: The New Monthly Magazine - A court case -
The long pending cause respecting the repairs of Marlow bridge,
which was lately decided in the King's Bench, has given rise to much discussion.
The gist of the case is briefly this:
The bridge across the Thames at Great Marlow having fallen into a state of decay, so as to make the passage of it in a degree dangerous to the public, divers bills of indictment had been preferred at different Quarter Sessions for Buckinghamshire, in order to compel the county to repair that portion of it which lies within it ;
they were, however, as often thrown out by the grand jury; and the inhabitants of Marlow then thought fit to move the Court of King's Bench for an information, in order to bring to issue the question, as to whether the county or themselves were bound to repair.
This motion came on for trial before the Chief-Justice and a Middlesex special jury, who, after a few minutes'consultation, returned a verdict for the crown, thereby deciding that it belongs to the county of Buckingham to provide and keep up a safe and proper bridge over the Thames at Marlow, for the use of the public, so far as the same lies within that county ; the county of Berks, pari ratione, being liable to keep up so much of it as lies within that county.
1828: Another bridge was planned a little above the site of the second bridge -
We found the second bridge in such a worn out state and tottering condition that to repair it it must be made nearly new. If the expense is not too great a stone bridge of five elliptical arches would be the most eligible, for there would not only be a grand entrance thrown open to the town on the Buckinghamshire side, but a great improvement in the road on the Berks side.
1829: a Tour on the Banks of the Thames, Autumn, 1829 -
Marlow, till very lately, had communication with the opposite shore by means of a wooden bridge,
erected by subscription; it had one of a similar kind as early as the reign of Edward the Third;
a suspension bridge of iron was in progress at the time the author visited the place, which has since been finished and opened to the public. It is a very handsome affair, and is highly ornamental as well as useful to the town from which it takes its name.
Marlow Suspension Bridge
William Tierney Clark FRS MICE 1783 - 1852
Opened in September 1832
This bridge and the Szechenyi Chain Bridge
Linking Buda and Pest across the River Danube
Are the only surviving suspension bridges by
William Tierney Clark
Notice there is no church in the above,
somewhat imaginative picture? The town
took its remodelling seriously,
demolished its church and built another!
The Thames could only conceivably be that rough in a hurricane - see photo below. And unless the bridge has altered the roadway is more or less flat. Maybe Tombleson had not fully grasped the principal of the suspension bridge?
His other bridges often show an exagerated curve (see Henley Bridge)
William Tierney Clark also designed the first Hammersmith Bridge in 1825. It looks to have had a similar construction. The Hammersmith Bridge was replaced in 1887.
1832: from Constable Gibbins' diary, at Cookham -
Marlow Bridge is bilt this Somer with cast iron.
1833: The Commissioners bought timber, for lock repairs, from the old bridge which was then demolished
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
[Coming downstream] Immediately on leaving
the shadows which the tall
trees of Bisham throw on the
water, the eye and mind are
relieved by the graceful suspension bridge which spans
the Thames at Marlow — Great Marlow,
It is a quiet town, and has the recommendation of being not very close to a railroad. Some thirty or forty years ago, however, it was as full of bustle and excitement as it is now of repose; for the Military College was here, and here some of the bravest and best of our soldiers were educated. It was thus circumstanced, however, for no very long period — the establishment commencing in 1790, and removing to Sandhurst in 1812.
1885: The Royal River, "Who ate the puppy pie under Marlow Bridge?" -
There is a circumstance connected with Great Marlow, beneath the dignity of history indeed,
which, however, as we are writing of the Thames, must not be passed over in silence.
In former days - and perhaps still, for we do not wish to make experimental proof -
the simple and apparently purposeless question,
"Who ate the puppy pie under Marlow Bridge?",
sufficed to throw the bargee of the Thames into a state of mind which could only find adequate expression in words that more than bordered on profanity. The venom rankling in the taunt is thus explained:-
The landlord of the inn at Medmenham had received private information that certain bargemen meditated that night a foray on his larder. He was a humorous man, who had just drowned a litter of young puppies. So he had their corpses baked in a pie, which he placed in the larder, and did not sit up to keep guard. The larder was robbed, the pie was carried off and conveyed to Marlow Bridge, where the plunderers feasted, as they supposed, on young rabbits.
From the Railway Children by Edith Nesbitt -
"You mustn't take no notice of my Bill," said the woman;
"'is bark's worse'n 'is bite. Some of the kids down Farley way is fair terrors. It was them put 'is back up calling out about who ate the puppy-pie under Marlow bridge."
"Who did?" asked Phyllis.
"I dunno," said the woman.
"Nobody don't know! But somehow, and I don't know the why nor the wherefore of it, them words is poison to a barge-master."
1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames -
...[Marlow Bridge] has acquired a certain notoriety in connection with a "puppy pie",
concerning which succulent pastry there are various traditions:
"Who ate the puppy pie under Marlow Bridge?"
is popularly supposed to be a crushing retort to any bargee impertinence. ...
For boating purposes, the reaches from Cookham to Marlow and from Marlow to Temple Hurley and Medmenham, are excellently adapted, and for camping-out purposes there is no more favourite spot on the river than the Quarry Woods below Marlow. ...
1889, A Pictorial History of the River Thames, Krausse
A slightly different twist to the story
In former days, Marlow was the favourite place for bargees to lay up over night.
The bargees used to frequent a little baker's shop near the river,
where they purchased their bread, and at times took their victuals to be cooked.
The crew of one particular barge, more artful than honest, used to perpetrate a swindle
on the baker in a very ingenious manner by claiming other victuals than their own
which they had left to be baked.
The baker, having several times suffered a loss by this fraud, determined to be even with the men, and having just drowned a litter of puppies, made them into a pie of unusual proportions.
As was their wont, the bargees in question brought a meat pie to the baker to be cooked, and after the usual interval, called for their dinner. The baker was out, but his wife readly took the customers to the oven and asked them to point out their pie. This they promptly did by claiming the Brobdingnagian [huge] pasty which had been specially prepared for their benefit, and having secured their booty, made a hearty meal of its contents.
The story got about, and these particular bargees found it convenient to lay elsewhere than at Marlow for some time afterwards.
True or false, the story has been handed down to the present day, and the query
"Did you ever eat puppy pie under Marlow Bridge?"
propounded to any of the men engaged in navigating barges on the Upper Thames, will even today be responded to by language more robust than polite.
[ I think the alarming thing about these stories is not the bargees' supper, which no doubt served them right, but the casual way in which it is accepted that a litter of puppies should be drowned ]
Marlow Bridge and Church lantern slide 1883-1906, W.C.Hughes, research by Dr Wilson, courtesy of Pat Furley
1901: The Thames Illustrated -
... the airy lines of the long and graceful bridge ...
1928: To the Society for the Protection of Ancient Monuments (in the Appendix to A Thames Survey) -
Marlow people are very much attached to the old bridge and would like to retain it, but have been given to
understand that the present bridge is too weak and too narrow.
It is proposed to remove the bridge and in its place to put up a reinforced concrete structure of which designs have been prepared. The drawing of the proposed new bridge bears the name of the Buckinghamshire County Surveyor. The present bridge belongs to the counties of Bucks and Berks. (Bucks is said to own four-fifths or seven-eighths.) The design shows a Hennebique bridge consisting of arched ribs rising well above road level and having the road platform suspended on concrete hangars made to look like columns. The arch springs from the edges of the towpaths, thus blocking the passage and, at the same time, reducing headroom for river craft when near the banks.
The local authorities and Marlow residents have seen the design and many are disgusted with it, and an appeal has been made to the Royal Fine Arts Commission. ...
The bridge was completed in about 1829, the date 1860 on the cast iron shields at the ends of the cross girders is the year in which the original oak cross girders were replaced by the present wrought-iron cross girders. The four main suspension chains, two on each side, and vertical hangar rods are of wrought-iron. Each chain consists of four links, each measuring approximately 2 5/16 inches X 2 1/16 inches. The hangar rods are 1 inch square.
The platform is of timber bracing and the parapets at the sides, consisting of timber rails and cast-iron stands, take the form of braced stiffening girders. The roadway itself consists of a thick layer of tar macadam. Mr Winfield, Buckinghamshire County Surveyor, with whom I have been in communication, informs me that the average thickness is 7¼ inches.
The towers forming the support to the chains are in masonry and take the form of arched gateways of fine proportions. They are said to be founded on piles, but the bed of the river here consists of gravel.
HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE: Apart from the general desire in Marlow to preserve the bridge because of its
appearance and suitability for the site, another reason why every effort should be made to preserve it
is its importance in the history of bridge building, for Marlow Bridge is the only one left of three suspension
bridges built in this country by William Tiernay Clark, F.R.S., who, coming immediately after Telford,
improved on his work and built the first suspension bridges of stiff and lasting construction.
Tiernay Clark was a pupil of Telford and favourite assistant of John Rennie, of Waterloo Bridge fame,
and designed the following suspension bridges:- across the Thames at Hammersmith (span 422 feet 3 inches),
completed 1827, replaced by the current bridge [in 1887] and at Marlow (the bridge now in question)
and across the Arun at Shoreham (280 feet span, replaced by steel bowstring girders in 1922).
With these suspension bridges to his credit, it was to Clark that in 1832 the emissaries from the City of Pesth came with their unprecedented problem of joining Buda and Pesth with a suspension bridge across the Danube. Clark's Danube bridge was completed in 1839; it has a span of 666 feet and was in its day a wonder of the world. It is still in use. Early suspension bridges were not very durable and Marlow Bridge having been in use for a century is undoubtedly a valuable link in the history of bridge construction, and seeing that it is in such excellent preservation it should be retained if possible.
PRESENT CONDITION: With the exception of the hand-rail or parapet, which is designed to act as a stiffening girder, all parts of the bridge which are easily accessible are in excellent condition, and I saw no sign of corrosion to any appreciable extent in any part. The general alignment of the platform and uniform rise and camber of the bridge are quite satisfactory ... and there is nothing to suggest that the bridge has been overstrained or excessively loaded. The parapet stiffening girders composed of top and bottom rails and diagonals of timber, and cast-iron uprights have got loose at the joints in some parts and the passage of vehicles produces noticeable movement. These loose joints only reduce the effectiveness of the parapets as stiffening girders and could be repaired or replaced without difficulty.
In the two masonry towers some of the voussoir stones of the arches have dropped slightly, suggesting that there has been movement, but the angle-iron bands put round each tower above the key-stone level appears to have stopped the movement. The towers in other respects are sound and appear to be quite upright. Old prints show the towers standing on the river foreshore but they are now 10 or 12 feet back from the edge of the towing-path on each bank, and are well protected from scour or other damage from the river. In the towers of Shoreham Bridge Clark put numerous vertical iron rods to add to the strength, and the Marlow towers, much the same in size and design, are probably similarly reinforced.
1955: Marlow Church and Bridge, Francis Frith -
Marlow Bridge 1957-1962: Campaign against replacement - The Marlow Society
1965: Bridge reconstructed to original design - there had been a move to replace it with a modern design - but this was rejected. There is now a 3 ton weight restriction effectively closing the crossing to commercial traffic.
Marlow Bridge in 1999
1888: Bob Shaw, Marlow fisherman in his punt, Henry Taunt -
Marlow fisherman in his punt, Henry Taunt, 1888
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT5873
Marlow Regatta, Henry Taunt, 1888
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT4789
Marlow, 1900s postcard
1886: A Marlow Madrigal, J. Ashby-Sterry
Listen to 'A Marlow Madrigal'
O, BISHAM BANKS are fresh and fair,
And Quarry Woods are green,
And pure and sparkling is the air,
Enchanting is the scene !
I love the music of the weir,
As swift the stream runs down,
For, O, the water's deep and clear
That flows by Marlow town !
When London's getting hot and dry,
And half the season's done,
To Marlow you should quickly fly,
And bask there in the sun.
There pleasant quarters you may find
The Angler or the Crown
Will suit you well, if you're inclined
To stay in Marlow town.
I paddle up to Harleyford,
And sometimes I incline
To cushions take with lunch aboard,
And play with rod and line.
For in a punt I love to laze,
And let my face get brown;
And dream away the sunny days
By dear old Marlow town !
I go to luncheon at the lawn,
I muse, I sketch, I rhyme;
I headers take at early dawn,
I list to All Saints' chime.
And in the river, flashing bright,
Dull care I strive to drown
And get a famous appetite
At pleasant Marlow town !
So when, no longer, London life
You feel you can endure;
Just quit its noise, its whirl, its strife,
And try the Marlow-cure !
You'll smooth the wrinkles on your brow
And scare away each frown
Feel young again once more, I vow,
At quaint old Marlow town !
Here Shelley dreamed and thought and wrote,
And wandered o'er the leas;
And sung and drifted in his boat
Beneath the Bisham trees.
So let me sing, although I'm no
Great poet of renown
Of hours that much too quickly go,
At good old Marlow town !
In all Ashby-Sterry's Thames poetry this is a rare example in which
he does not introduce some young lady and fall in love with her!